After a poor 1-11 performance last year, South Florida’s football team will be entering its latest season with a variety of new additions to the team.
During their time in the transfer portal, head coach Alex Golesh and his staff were able to recruit 49 new players, with 38 on scholarship. He said he focused on recruiting people that would best fit the team’s culture.
“It’s a ginormous puzzle because it’s not so much talent acquisition, it’s character acquisition. It’s a locker room fit,” Golesh said.
The Oracle spoke to four transfers to see why they decided to join the Bulls this year – here’s what they said.
Nay’Quan Wright – Senior running back, UF
Coming from the University of Florida, senior running back Nay’Quan Wright joined South Florida in spring 2023.
When he entered the transfer portal in December, Wright had offers from the University of Colorado and the University of Louisville while in the NCAA transfer portal.
Golesh’s efforts in recruiting reassured Wright that his transition to USF was the right one.
“As a recruiter, [Golesh] is high energy,” Wright said. “He lets you know his plan and the system when talking about the offense. I [also] got to connect with the running back coach which was great.”
During his 29 games with the Gators, Wright totaled 688 rushing yards and three touchdowns. For his final season at Florida, he started four games as a running back.
While playing against USF on Sept. 19, Wright rushed for 37 yards and placed one touchdown against the Bulls.
Along with Golesh’s reassurance, Wright said he enjoys the style of play USF has to offer with his position.
“This offense is pretty fast,” Wright said. “I like how they use the running back out the back field. Last year, we didn’t instill much using the running back in the past games like we did in previous years [at UF], so I like that.”
He was recently one of five members at USF to be named to the Athlon Sports 2023 preseason All-AAC Team.
RJ Perry – Junior offensive lineman, Tennessee
Having already experienced Golesh’s style of coaching at Tennessee last season, junior offensive lineman RJ Perry joined the Bulls in spring 2023.
Totaling 20 career games with the Volunteers, Perry had redshirt eligibility for the 2021 season.
In his final year with the Volunteers, Perry played in 13 games where Tennessee had a record of 11-2, 6-2 SEC under Golesh and ranked sixth in the nation.
There was no doubt Golesh’s impact lingered while Perry was in the transfer portal, causing him to want to continue his career under Golesh’s leadership.
“[Golesh] was great [at Tennessee] and one of the main reasons I came here,” Perry said.
Golesh’s decision to move to USF was announced last December as the Vols were playing the Orange Bowl game.
In his 20-year career, Golesh has coached his teams to 12 bowl games. The first was in 2004 with Ohio State University.
With Golesh’s record for playing bowl games, Perry saw an opportunity for a repeat when he joined USF.
“After the bowl game, I put my name in the portal [when] I found out coach Golesh left, so I was like, ‘It’s my time.’ I knew I was going to come here as soon as they started texting me.”
Bernard Gooden – Sophomore defensive lineman, Wake Forest
Sophomore defensive lineman Bernard Gooden joined USF from Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Wake Forest finished last year with an 8-5 record, ending its season with a win in the Gasparilla Bowl against Missouri 27-17.
In his best collegiate season, Gooden played in 12 games. He recorded seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
Gooden said defensive line coach Kevin Patrick was a factor in his decision to transfer from Wake Forest.
“[Patrick] definitely was a big part in why I wanted to come here because he didn’t talk to me like another D-line coach,” Gooden said.
“He was telling me things that I knew could further my game. So [Patrick] was definitely a big part.”
Gooden also said Golesh’s emphasis on building relationships with his players stood out to him.
“[Golesh] is a person that cares about all his players, whatever someone has going on, he wants to make sure you are good,” he said.
Doug Blue-Eli – Sophomore defensive lineman, TCU
Sophomore defensive lineman Doug Blue-Eli joined USF from TCU, the runner-up in the 2023 National Championship game.
Last season, as a redshirt freshman, he played in the first four games and recorded one tackle.
During the regular season, the Horned Frogs went 12-0 and were undefeated for the first time since 2010.
Before defensive line coach Kevin Patrick and Golesh recruited Blue-Eli, Bulls junior wideout – and his former Cherry Hill West High School teammate – Naiem Simmons reached out to him.
Simmons transferred to USF in December from Wagner College. USF was already a school Blue-Eli had in mind, but the opportunity to reunite with his high school teammate helped him solidify his decision.
“[Simmons] asked me, ‘What are things looking like for you?’ And USF was one of the first schools I was thinking about,” Blue-Eli said. “Golesh hit me up after that and got me on a visit.”
After leaving the National Champion runners-up, Blue-Eli said he is optimistic about Golesh’s style of coaching, as the team looks to have a better record than last year.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a total change, Golesh and [Patrick] came to all of us with a vision,” Blue-Eli said. “And from there on, I feel as though we have been doing everything they have said and working hard to try and flip things.”